Former Miami Dolphins tight end Michael Egnew was a third-round draft pick of the AFC East squad just three short seasons ago. A new regime had taken over that season in 2012, and they sought to rebuild an offense that had basically gone nowhere since Dan Marino retired, with a cursory nod in the direction of Chad Pennington.
Within the first three rounds of his first draft as a head coach Joe Philbin got his franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, in the first round, his blindside protector in the second in the form of Jonathan Martin, and then an offensive weapon with Egnew in the third round.
Though regarded as raw, Egnew posted impressive Combine numbers after coming out of a throw-first offense that did not use its tight ends to block much at all. As a result of his one-dimensionality and his difficulty of adjusting to the speed of the game, he spent much of his rookie year on the bench, but he came back in 2013 playing in all 16 games.
Still, Egnew received very little work, and few targets, as the Dolphins offensive coordinator tried to turn him into a blocking tight end, at times even lining up in the backfield. When a new offensive coordinator was brought in last season who prefers to send his tight ends out on routes, he failed to make the final 53-man roster.
Egnew spent 2014 instead very briefly in August with the Lions and then, again, briefly, on the practice squad of the Jaguars. He was unemployed in the NFL from late September until January, when the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him to a Reserve/Future contract.
Yet as we head into July, with the weeks until training camp ticking away, I can’t help but take note of the complete lack of reporting on Egnew that we have experienced through all of the offseason, including the bits and pieces of information gained from OTAs and minicamp.
Given that the modern NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits practice with pads during the spring, this time of year is now generally reserved for working on the passing game. as a glorified 6’5”, 250-pound wide receiver, it is a slight concern that Egnew has failed to even get a mention throughout this time.
Reports suggest that Egnew certainly never developed into the blocking tight end that his former offensive coordinator once attempted to build him into, so his best chance of making the team, or even the practice squad, would figure to be showing off his receiving skills.
But we are now heading into the period at which the focal point is not finesse, but physicality, and that leaves me worried about his chances.
How will he fare during the first session of backs on backers? Has he grown at all in this regard? The Steelers spoke openly about their low opinion of what is happening to the college tight end with the proliferation of spread offense, and of the difficulty of finding in-line blocking tight ends.
The third-year former third-round draft pick has never shown himself to be that type of player, so I have to wonder how long a shelf-life he has when he is on the bottom of the totem pole of six tight ends in terms of blocking ability.